How to Start a Sideline HR Consulting Business

Today I’m going to talk about running a small business, marketing, and product creation. If that’s not your thing, come back later this week for more great HR-centered content.

I think everyone has knowledge that is worth sharing. Some of that knowledge, you might have found, might even be worth some compensation. This past week I wrote a post for my friends at Careerealism, and it focuses on how I started the journey years ago into the world of HR consulting. Here’s a piece of that:

I'll be honest—the first consulting meeting with the CEO and Vice President of the company was pretty stressful. They wanted some help in defining their hiring methods, creating documents to support the new process, and so on. It was all work that I've had experience doing, but stepping out from under the corporate umbrella on my own felt just plain weird.

I told them that I could do the work for them, offered a rate for the project, and shook hands to seal the deal.

Over the following weeks, I provided them with the various work products and consulting time they had requested, and when I finally received the check in the mail, I felt something special stir in my heart. At the time, I wasn't sure what that was, but now I can say with certainty what I was feeling.

What we all want

In that moment, standing at the mailbox and looking at the check, I realized that someone else thought that my knowledge and expertise was valuable enough to pay me for it. I think that's a big hurdle for many of us to get over, so I will say it again: Someone else thought my knowledge was worth paying for.

I think it's something we all hope for. We want to be worth something. We want others to value what we have to say. And if we can get paid for doing those things, then that's the best of both worlds.

Advice on starting

Are you interested in picking up some extra work? Maybe you'd like to start that consulting business you've dreamed of? Whatever the case, consider this: You are good enough at something that people will pay you for it.

In order to do this, you need to understand:

  1. What that is
  2. How you can position it
  3. How you can get connected to clients

If you can do all three of those, you'll have your first gig before you know it.

In the business world, we call that your unique value proposition. Know what you can bring that someone else can't, be able to communicate the value of that knowledge/service, and find people who are willing to pay to have that type of problem solved. Even if you're approaching a company about a job and not in a consulting role, the same rules apply. Source:

This basic info can get you started, but there are other tips and ideas that I normally share with those looking to get into this exciting new world. Here’s one of the most valuable…

Creating a product

Consulting, in the end, is about trading dollars for hours. Give me dollars, I’ll give you hours. But when you create a product of some kind, you can scale that business beyond what it currently can stand. I always recommend that new consultants consider the top two or three questions they receive. The next step is to create something–a video, a short PDF guide, or something similar that answers one of those questions in great detail.

If someone paid you to answer that question with half an hour of your time, use that half hour of video or 10 pages of written material (or both) to do that for someone. Then you’re no longer limited by the number of hours in a week, you can pitch the product to a new market, and you can grow the business in new, exciting ways.

This is a recipe for growth that most HR consultants never tap into. And if you’ve been thinking about starting your own small (or large) consulting business from the ground up, this is a great place to start. 

4 thoughts on “How to Start a Sideline HR Consulting Business

  1. Tori King

    Is there a certain amount time required in the HR field to be considered a credible consultant?

    1. Ben Post author

      Good question, Tori! I would say it’s more about expertise than time. I talk with people about their processes all the time, and as long as I know what I’m talking about they never ask me how many years of experience I have. It’s important to know which area(s) you’re a credible expert in and then targeting those with your advice.

    2. chris

      Found this article encouraging to keep pressing forward in my consideration to scale my own side business. I am currently the owner of SpaceCoast AV Consultants. AND, I have been able to pick up a client for my HR Consulting knowledge and experience. Got that first and second check and now wondering if I should move forward to actually starting a consultancy.
      ~Christopher, Cocoa Beach, FL

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